- Bill Williamson, ESPN Staff Writer
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What it means: The 49ers are not dead. Give this club a ton of credit. The 49ers entered this game on a short week in a bad way. They were outscored 56-10 in the previous two games, banged up and dealing with the fact linebacker Aldon Smith had entered an alcohol treatment center. This a crucial time for San Francisco, and the team answered the call. The offense wasn’t perfect but it was impressive, and the defense was tremendous (led by linebacker NaVorro Bowman) playing without Smith and linebacker Patrick Willis, who was injured. The 49ers improved to 2-2 and showed that as defending NFC champions, they are not ready to go bye-bye anytime soon.
Stock watch: Frank Gore’s stock is way up. The 49ers went to the basics offensively and it paid off. Gore was terrific. He had 153 yards on 20 carries, including a 34-yard touchdown on fourth-and-inches to make it 14-3 late in the second quarter. The 49ers had success on the ground in the first half Sunday in a loss to the Indianapolis Colts, but then got away from it in the second half. This time they stuck to their plan and it opened up the passing game.
Fair-catch kick: This game got fairly uninteresting in the second quarter as the 49ers pulled away. But San Francisco did keep things fresh when kicker Phil Dawson attempted a free kick at the end of the first half. Had he made the 71-yard attempt it would have been a field goal. It had no chance. The Rams tried to return it, but got nowhere. It was the first time the 49ers used the rare play in 24 years. It may be another 24 years before they try it again. But yeah, coach Jim Harbaugh was going to win this game. Everything was on the table.
What’s next: The 49ers get a relaxing weekend. That’s the payoff of a Thursday night game. The preparation is challenging, but if you win, it’s a great weekend at home and the start of a nine-day rest period. The 49ers will be refreshed when they host Houston on Oct. 6 in a Sunday night game. The home fans will be looking for a better effort than what San Francisco gave against Indianapolis.